"Do dead men walk?" someone asks at one point. They do in The Ghoul. This modestly budgeted English Karloff vehicle produced shortly after Karloff's landmark performance in Frankenstein and 1932's The Mummy won't have done anything to unsettle Universal, but is worth a visit for genre enthusiasts, not least for the entertaining cast. A young Ralph Richardson has a key role as a well-meaning vicar, whilst Ernest Thesiger (unforgettable as the mad doctor in Bride of Frankenstein) plays Karloff's Scottish clubfooted servant.
The perfunctory plot has Egyptologist Karloff on his deathbed believing that if he is buried with a jewel he excavated from an ancient tomb he will be endowed with eternal life. Problem is he is surrounded by a motley bunch of selfish opportunists all determined to get their hands on the enormous gem just as soon as Karloff pops his clogs. He warns all that should he be disturbed after his internment any defiler can expect him to return from the grave to wreak a fatal revenge. Which, you'll hardly be surprised to learn, is precisely what happens.
An amusing line in English wit reflected in some sharp, knowing dialogue helps carry the film through its slower moments, of which there are a few. Lots of fog-shrouded location work (complete with breath visible in what were clearly very cold exteriors) and characterful, shadowy sets help conjure up a believable Yorkshire locale. The entire film takes place at night and very dark and dingy it is too. Strikingly similar in plot to Universal's overrated The Mummy released just the previous year, often as good and sometimes better. 6/10
Rob Dyer (November 2005)
The Mummy (1932)
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